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Solomon's Screaming Tomb: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/11/2020 07:15:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/SRD, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this module is situated in a desert area, and it is intended for a party of characters ranging from levels 5 to 7. I’d suggest the usual 4-6. A general overview map of the region is provided (sans scale), but on a plus-side, the module does come with…(mostly) player-friendly maps! The 9 rooms of the tomb all get their own one-page versions, sport grids, but no scale, and an overview map is also provided for the GM. While labels are on the maps, in several cases, the letters are outside the maps, and can be cut off – this, however, doesn’t extend to all maps.

The information-design of the module is pretty good, though: We do get read-aloud text, which is generally well-written, and the support extends to dialogues with NPCs – helpful and neat. Below those sections, we have bullet points. Monsters also come with descriptions – a nice touch.

Now, this was an early offering of the author, and it does show – though the author has improved the book: Originally, the module was missing proper statblocks, providing only abbreviated versions. This has since then been remedied (KUDOS!) – we get full stats for the creatures encountered. On the downside, the statblock formatting could make a clearer distinction between the statblock and passive feature-section, particularly since the passive features (such as Keen Hearing and Smell), while properly bolded, don’t have their names in proper italics. Still: Better formatting than many instances I’ve seen. On the formatting-side, “Hit:” should be in italics: “Hit:” to make parsing faster. Anyhow, beyond these, we have some average damage values being slightly off: 3d6+3 should e.g. be 13, not 12. Skills are also not always correct. One part of the final boss is missing its poison damage immunity that the entire being has. More grating, no HD-values are provided – only HP-values are included. So yeah, while we now have stats, they aren’t exactly anywhere close to perfect.

On the plus side, the module does quite a bit right: We get some rather neat setups: There are two NPCs – young thief Layla, and the wizard Azzan, are investigating the tomb (looking for missing mentors both), and the PCs can compete with them, cast their lots with them, etc. – or, well, a deaf cobbler found in a dangerous oasis might also provide a hint. In short: The hooks are rather detailed.

Trekking through the desert also provides some sample hazards, and did I mention the trap-like things lurking in the sands, the sabercats or dune rays? This module manages to establish a fantastic, yet gritty atmosphere from the get-go. A plus: The book has a great reason for not allowing for rest-scumming: It, well, screams. Kudos for that!

The deaf cobbler also introduces a bit of humor…but yeah, in order to explain more, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the module is per se a straight-forward tomb-exploration: If the party talks to the wizard Azzan Wadi making camp near the tomb, he’ll tell the PCs that his mentor first dealt with the first instance of the tomb screaming, but lost his life doing so. You see, years past, a master thief (the mentor of Layla) entered the tomb and inadvertently-crashed through it, opening a passage to the Dolorous Ichor – a black slime-thing, which is emitting the screams, seeking to lure new prey. The PCs thus have the global effects on the tomb aligned with this antagonist – the black ooze can also animate ichor warriors, which are HARD to kill. There are multiple entries to the tomb (official route or the thief’s), and random encounters with howling (non-undead) ghuuls are also part of the deal. Exploring the tomb, the PCs can meet Layla, and magical monsters (which can affect you with a sight-hampering growth of spider-eyes, thankfully temporary!), spiders with piercing glass webs and the like – some really cool stuff is here. The detail is also neat: The book provides e.g. a whole array of information for speak with dead, and risk/reward ratios are neat: Sure, the NPCs are helpful, but they do have their own agendas…Layla will, for example, not stand for the PCs trying to take her erstwhile mentor’s gear.

Oh, and there’s a surprise waiting: the missing master Barnabas is actually alive – in a way. He’s sealed in amber, as his spell seems to have gone awry…and powerful magic may restore him. Oh, and then, there’s this white, aggressive arm extending from the wall – it belongs to a massive fiend trapped here, who has a deal: Let it eat a limb, and the character gains power. This forever eliminates the limb, but grants an increase of +2 to Constitution, advantage on death saves, resistance to fire, cold and poison damage, darkvision of 60 ft., and the ability to read and write Infernal. Okay, how does that influence spellcasting? How does losing a leg influence the character? What about multi-limbed races, after all, there are plenty of those available for 5e? This is a solid idea, but its execution is lackluster.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; on a rules-language level, the book suffers from its deviations from the standards, and on a formal level, the irreverent and well-wrought writing contrasts with some typos – my favorite being the “data palm.” Artworks and cartography are hand-made and functional. I strongly recommend printing the adventure, for the pdf has no bookmarks. Boo! The module comes with a second, low-res version for mobile devices.

Joseph Robert Lewis’ excursion into the screaming tomb is an early offering, and it shows; it is an attempt at executing a straight-forward dungeon crawl in 5e, and frankly, I liked it much more than I should have. It has some replay value, and the wealth of weird creatures features, the global effects and details – this shows love and a distinct voice. While it is not as inspired as his usual work, the module still has fun to offer, provided you can look past the formatting issues. Particularly due to its more than fair $1.00 asking price, this is worth checking out if you’re looking for a solid dungeon. It has flaws, but it also has a couple of nifty ideas.

That being said, I’d recommend the author’s other work, like the brilliant Saving Saxham, over this any day of the week. My final verdict for the screaming tomb can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Solomon's Screaming Tomb: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e)
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Saving Saxham: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
by Stephen F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/20/2020 22:42:25

I ran the OSR version of this module this previous Sunday and it was, hands down, the most fun our group has had so far.

The magic items had them guessing for a good 20 minutes, trying different combinations to get a ring to work that had JUST worked before, but now was just a pretty hunk of metal.

During one part of the session two of my younger players split off from the rest of the party (insert ominous music here), to explore an underground tunnel. For plot reasons they were trying to avoid the floor, so were swinging from tree root to tree root. Their greed got the better of them and they reached for a treasure they shouldn't have, resulting in one of the players temporarily losing the use of one of his hands.

You can picture the scene, two elves hanging from the ceiling, both trying to avoid the floor, one trying to regain use of his hand without letting go of the root. The other player tried to assist, but also couldn't let go of the ceiling, so he was one-handed as well. It became a comedy of errors. "I throw my lit lantern on the floor!" "Nope, it's not lit, you told me you were both using your darkvision." "Then I light my torch!" "With one hand?"

They eventually dropped to the floor and rang another magic item from the module, which caused the stuff they were trying to avoid to be pulled in from a 100' radius. "Yup, of all your options, that was probably the worst thing you could have done."

It was hilarious and I'm going to have a tough time topping the fun we had.

Thank you so much for a memorable session.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Saving Saxham: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
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Saving Saxham: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
by christopher s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/07/2019 14:41:40

This thing is laid out in an easy to glom format, making it easy to run at the table after one read through. I did the presentation overall, the descriptions and how it can be resolved.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Saving Saxham: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
by David L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2019 20:42:08

Hello! This is my first review for any module or anything related to D&D/5e on this site or anywhere.

I mentioned to the PCs I taken liberties for the module and made custom changes and/or additions.

There will be spoilers in this review.

I didn't purchase this module at first, I decided get another module for free when I was asked if I could DM a game for my group while our dungeon master was away in Spain for awhile. I used Roll20. So I looked at the two and I felt this one was a lot simpler to look at and simpler to understand. I really like the basic premise of the module, it's very simple! So simple it's hard for players who are into killing creatures or even people. But to just talk and investigate and roll well, no killing was needed! This is a module that works for a party of four from level 1-3. I started off with only two people until second session became five 2nd level players. I adjusted the difficulty acorrdingly.

I will admit, when reading the instructions. I was glad to see the creator being positive on how we could run this, saying what the module is doesn't have to be the right or wrong way and we could adjust or change things to our liking. Hell, we could of made Saxham a generic town that has places in! For me personally, it felt difficult to understand how things connect setting wise and how they tie together. But obviously careful reading will explain a lot, I did get confused on where things where. Thinking there were multiple ways of entering the tunnels below. But reading carefully will clear things up. However I did think the maps were a little too simplistic that didn't speak well to me, I didn't realise the forest with the roads was actually a forest until my second session while I was editing things, I stared and noticed the drawing made bush shapes. Yet I liked the simplistic design, felt more memorable and easier to keep track of things. But I wouldn't mind a little more detail in places to clear things.

When they went into Saxham noticing the ruined buildings and some being repaired, they never went into any of them though. And met the people in Saxham, one of the PCs successfully forged a note that Saxham believed instead of 50 gold each was 300 gold each. This got great laughs. And was tasked to protect Saxham and find the cause of the plague and try and stop it.

I completely changed the elven cemetary, made it smaller and simpler. But still kept the Saxhams there but made it more for elves. The PCs saw a large statue of a former elven queen, and a quote. She was burried in a special tomb with a human male, who found out was her husband. Of course, I made this that wasn't part of the module. I decided I would keep the whole idea intact, saving Saxham but I added my own ideas to make the story more simpler and less content to keep the flow going. I improvised the elven camp, had one elf druid surrounded by elven archers who were higher leveled. She even made a deal if they could figure out the plague, and would give 1000 gold each to the first two. As long as they reported back information and would pay extra if they were able to obstain the cemetary back. But never told them how they should do it.

When they went back to the square and see Saxham, they tried to convince him that the elves would buy the cemetary back, which the elves never spoke of but not needing to see through the lie. Saxham hated the fact that the elves wanted to purchase something they think they rightfully own and one of their messengers was killed by the elves. And vowed to call for an army to defend Saxham.

Even tried something with the goblins, to help the PCs learn better but one of my PCs hated goblins so much he wouldn't let one live. So they wiped the goblins out. Not being able to understand more. So I created a custom Warlock on Roll20 called Xesh, one of my PCs actually bonded with this character and called him "Grandpa" he was able to help and explain the situation and even tell the passage in elvish to get into the the tomb. Of course my players DIDNT write this down shakes my dead So instead of them backtracking, I brought him in when they killed the goblins that were going to bring more bodies for the ghost.

They went into the tunnel and fought some badgers (added more because of the level and size of the group) and a gnoll so happened to find a cute little anime like rock gnome walking down it's tunnel. But they easily managed to kill them. And found some custom gold I put there. However as they were walking back, the ghost who was causing all this appeared at the entrance with two goblin bosses. She told her why, I decided to simply say the plagued stay inside the trees. And managing to get whatever source of life left, she brought her people back and the ooze was the plague slowly dying but the trees were still standing. However our PC who believed extremely in the Raven Queen, killed the Ghost despite the pleas for their help. He believed the undead should remained undead no matter what. She tried to posses him but couldn't. And he was able to kill her, and break the control she had. However, she said before passing away "You...are the one who killed...Saxham!"

And so they all went back up to warn the elves, to tell them about the incoming human army, which the the druid was displeased that it wasn't there ealier and wondered what the hell they did to get an army on them? And to hear they got to the tunnels, and hearing them out...she realised, Saxham was truly lost and the plague will continue to spread. In rage, she would face the humans in battle and angrily told the party to leave...and even let them have their 2000 gold...but vowed to kill them if they ever meet again.

One of the PCs didn't like the idea of the ghost reviving dead humans, and knew some were living in Saxham and wanted to kill them. However, they were met with Xesh, the two Saxhams and a band of knights. Refusing to allow the PC to kill innocents for his Raven Queen...Xesh tried to banish him but failed. Leaving to find someone, the others stayed behind...not wanting to be part of this fight. One of them even ran away. And since the PC refused to let the ones who returned stay alive, Saxham had enough. And ordered his knights to kill him. But was faced death when seeing the PC going to strike he rolled a nat1 and Saxham attacked back, rolling a natural 20. Heh. The knight surrounded the PC, and killed the PC. The others decided to flea, not wanting to be caught him and with the coming war and plague.

The Rock Gnome PC found Xesh the old human warlock, and decided to journey with him alongside her friend who didn't want her to go...until Xesh offered booze which she happily joined. The other two who were part of the same guild, decided to journey together and they all went their seperate ways. Seeing Saxham in flames, skimishes between men and elves. The plagued spreading.

While I heavily changed things. My players loved the idea of Saxham and my take on it, really recommend DMs to try this out and even play around make things work how you like to work. But try and keep the idea true. It's something completely different. I noticed the guy did something before this, but Saving Saxham has more polish and throught. I can't wait to see what comes next! I promised myself to spend $5 on this if players enjoyed it. And I have done so.

The party failed to Save Saxham...And their next adventure, is a story...for another day.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Saving Saxham: A Dungeon Age Adventure (5e and OSR versions)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/12/2018 12:24:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This module clocks in at 24 pages of content , 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of which is the SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content.

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a printed copy of the adventure.

All righty, this is an adventure for characters level 1 – 3, with well-rounded groups being the preferable target demographic, as often the case. This is a one-man operation, with the maps and artworks provided by the author as well. The cartography in b/w is solid, but does not provide a grid/scale or player-friendly, unlabeled version per se – however, it is cleverly constructed in a way which allows the GM to print it out and cut out the map section sans the labels, making the maps functionally player-friendly.

Let it be known that this book looks very professional from the get-go: Read-aloud text (which is flavorful) is clearly set apart from the text and color-coded, and important key words are bolded – whenever they point towards a locale, an item, etc. that has its own description/section, we have the information in brackets. This may sound like a small thing, but from an information-design perspective, this renders running the module surprisingly easy for the GM.

Indeed, in spite of being basically an investigative sandbox, this adventure can be run with minimum prep time, courtesy of its smart presentation. That’s definitely more forethought than I expected from a freshman offering. This is even more evident when it comes to room/locale descriptions – below the read-aloud texts we actually get helpful bullet-points that list items of interest/interaction points, rules-relevant information, etc.

The pdf also provides quite a few helpful minor magic items – for example a helmet that provides advantage on saving throws versus being stunned. Here, I need to nitpick their formatting a bit – no item scarcity is noted and “Attunement.” is bolded, when it should be both italicized and noted in the line for item scarcity. That would be a cosmetic hiccup, though.

EDIT: And this is where this module deserves a re-evaluation: Where previously, we got barely functional stats, the revised edition now features abbreviated statblocks in the front, where they are relevant, and full statblocks in the back, in case you need to look up some obscure rules-interaction. This is a VAST improvement for the pdf!

Coupled with the fact that even e.g. a goblin gets some personality, his own agenda and responses to news and the like, we now thus have the proper mechanics to supplement narrative class: We get dialogue options, guidance and this super-neat presentation; heck, even mundane, interesting items such as letters get detailed descriptions – in the fluff department, this totally excels.

But to properly explain what’s sets this module apart, I need to go into SPOILERS. Players REALLY should skip ahead to the conclusion. Seriously. Reading on will thoroughly SPOIL the adventure, and you don’t want that.

..

.

Okay, are only GMs left? Are you sure? One more time: I will spoil this thing! Big time! So, “Saving Saxham” begins as generic as it can be – there is a small village called Saxham, established by the wealthy Sax family, courtesy of the grist mill. As the adventurers arrive in the town, they will be puzzled indeed – a curse seems to have taken a hold of Saxham – houses are dilapidated an overgrown, weeds are all over the fields, and, as a boy tells the PCs en route, monsters are in the woods. All of these observations, save one, are correct – in the woods, there indeed are monsters – and as the local elves have come to investigate, there is a similar problem – the forest seems to be suffering a mysterious blight. Strange variant zombies, so-called clayskins (things of clay) and woodwalkers (basically woodzombies with green berries for eyes) lumber through the forest, with the former evolving into the more deadly, second form over time.

If this sounds like something that could have been taken straight from a Witcher-game, then you’d be right – the premise does not disappoint: There is no gizmo responsible. There is no evil necromancer with the cliché shadow boss. There is no standard evil humanoid tribe responsible. Nope, the solution is actually much more amazing. The surrounding area, NPCs and small dungeon, all detailed in intriguing ways, does hold a secret most delightful in its implications: You see, the buildings and fields aren’t cursed. Neither are the villagers. 30 years ago, the plague struck Saxham and wiped it out, making it a ghost town – and now, the ghost of the town cleric has risen, and in her despair, raises the villagers, successfully, I might add, from the dead. Okay, they need to shamble a bit around as beings of grave clay…and then as dangerous wooden monsters…but after that, they’ll come to their senses, stumble naked back into town, and have no recollection of what happened. The life-source required is drawn by the undead from the flora of the region. Bound to the cemetery, the ghost requires its minions to dig tunnels – and she is draining trees from below. If the adventurers don’t interfere, the blight will spread, but a town that has died will be repopulated…though, obviously, the elves wouldn’t stand for such a perversion of the natural order…

This is a fantastic and clever conundrum, a great twist, and frankly renders this one of the coolest first level modules I’ve read in a long while. I absolutely love it!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal, and now also on a rules-language level, are excellent; the combination of easy to use shortened statblocks and full stats in the back is amazing. The pdf comes laid out in a two-column full-color standard with b/w-artworks and cartography, and a low-res version as well. The pdf does not have bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment – I strongly encourage you to print this out when running it.

Joseph Robert Lewis’ “Saving Saxham” was a HUGE surprise for me. First, I enjoyed the presentation and clever way in which the scenario handles information. Then, my spirits sank as I saw the statblock issue –an issue, which, as per the writing of this review, is no more!!

I read this...and my reaction was: "Oh boy!" “Saving Saxham” is a fantastic, slightly weird fantasy-ish/dark fantasy module that provides a truly tricky moral conundrum, a clever story and evocative prose. This feels like a module I’d run in my home-game; it is clever, smart, and yes, fun. It has a very distinct narrative voice and is more creative than a TON of modules I’ve read. This is a true winner, and as a person, I LOVE it. If you have similar tastes, then do yourself a favor and check this out!! Better yet, its revised edition now provides the rules-integrity to supplement the amazing angle, making this pretty much one of the best modules for PWYW that you can get. My final verdict for the revised iteration will be 5 stars + seal of approval - get this ASAP!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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